Bengaluru, July 29: Achanta Sharath Kamal's Tokyo Olympics journey has come to an end but the Indian paddler played one of his best matches against the legendary Ma Long. Facing the world champion in the third round, Kamal made Long sweat it out as the Indian paddler made him work hard for the win. Despite the loss Kamal is happy with his performance.
Speaking to ANI, Kamal opened up about his Olympic campaign and the challenges of taking part in the quadrennial event amidst the coronavirus pandemic. "I think this was my best performance in all the Olympics games I have played till now. Really happy that I could put myself in this place both physically and mentally.
"Prepared a lot, complete planning went into it with my table tennis coach Rajat Kamal and Shrinivas Rao. Fitness coach, my mental trainer, and dietician planned with me on where and how do we get into preparation and make me peak at the right time. We worked really hard so I am really happy to be in this place currently. It also motivates me to continue," Kamal told ANI.
Kamal, who went down to Ma Long in a 46-minute thrilling men's singles contest against Long, labelled it as one of the best matches he's ever played. "Yes, I think the match against Ma Long is one of the best that I have ever played. And the way, I carried myself and the way I had an attitude of giving all I have in the fight against Ma Long, that I am there to take it away from him. That is what stood out in that game.
"If you look at the scoreline, it does not justify what I actually did in the match. I am happy to put Ma Long in a space where he did not want to be in. Actually, I let it slip from that position," added Kamal.
The 39-year-old Kamal also added India's table tennis campaign in Tokyo is the country's best when it comes to table tennis at the Olympics. "This has been the best table tennis campaign for India at the Olympics. Manika Batra reaching Round 3, me playing Round 3 for the first time. Sutirtha Mukherjee playing Round 2 and winning against a higher-ranked player in Round 1. We did very well and I am sure in the next years to come, we will be a very strong team."
The Tokyo Olympics had already been postponed for a year due to the pandemic and is being held without any fans, with players training and staying in strict bubbles with umpteen restrictions. Talking about the challenges of preparing and playing for the mega event amidst the covid-19 pandemic, Kamal said, "This Olympic Games was played in unprecedented times. The experience was really fantastic, I had expected more difficulties in terms of following the protocols and handling the restrictions, but we just got used to it with a period of time. I am really happy that the Games have happened."
(With input from agencies)